Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation was originally released in 2012 as a companion game to its console counterpart, Assassin’s Creed III. The Vita exclusive title featured a new protagonist and a unique setting not often seen in games, but in a familiar Assassin’s Creed formula. Now, Ubisoft Sofia has brought the Liberation to the big screen in the form of Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD.
Set in 1765 New Orleans, players will take control of the series’ newest assassin, Aveline de Grandpe. She is rescued and recruited by her mentor Agate, and begins her crusade against the Templars, the series-long nemesis of the Assassins. Aveline has also battle against the harsh reality of slavery and the threat of the Spanish trying to claim the Bayou as their own. The story can be hard to follow at times, so the addition of brief synopses during loading screens was welcome.
Aveline mostly plays similarly to all of the previous Assassin’s Creed protagonists, climbing, stealthing, and stabbing her way to justice, with one major exception: she can play dress up. Aveline can use dressing chambers scattered across New Orleans to change into any of her three personas: the Assassin, the slave, and the Lady.
The Assassin and slave play very similarly in practice. The Assassin will always carry some notoriety but performs as series vets will be accustomed. The slave can also climb, jump, and fight, but not all weapons are available to her and she has the added ability to “blend” with slaves by carrying boxes that you’ll rarely find or need. The Lady, however, has very limited fighting capability and cannot climb at all. While Aveline looks very fashionable in her dress and hat, this ground-bound outfit is only useful in specific missions that require it. In general, the ability to switch between these outfits is rarely useful and sometimes annoying.
Gameplay in Liberation HD isn’t groundbreaking, but solid nonetheless. Everything you’re used to from the series proper can be found here. There are viewpoints to sync, people that need to be un-alived, shops, sidequests, and the mandatory gimmick minigame. The minigame in Liberation HD is essentially a trade market for importing/exporting goods that isn’t very fun or explained all that well, but it’s there as something else you can do.
With the HD port, Ubisoft Sofia added in 15 side missions (five per persona) that ranged from strange to interesting, and removed the Vita specific missions you may have heard stories about. A lot of work went into upgrading the visuals and sounds, and it shows. Visually, the game is about on par with Revelations, improving greatly upon the more muddy textures from the Vita release. The town is more populated than before, making New Orleans feel as lively as it should. The voice acting is still atrocious, though (and this is from someone who only watches dubbed anime). Aveline is serviceable, but many of the other characters have cringe-worthy fake accents. Makes you wonder why Ubisoft, a French studio, didn’t get some actual French voice actors.
Likely due to being a port of a handheld game, the missions are very short, generally lasting only a few minutes at a time. Checkpoints are frequent, and large orbs are placed along the way to objectives to help lead players in the right direction. In a way, Liberation HD is the “Assassin’s Creed for Dummies” entry of the series, making getting lost or losing track of the objective nearly impossible. Aveline was given the ability to Chain Kill enemies where players can hold a button and select multiple enemies to kill at once. It seems like a concession originally made for Vita, as it felt useless in the console version. I never used it again after the tutorial for it.
Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD makes for a solid re-entry into the Assassin’s Creed franchise, sharing in many of the series long pitfalls while also managing to be a great starting point for many new to the series. Although there is certainly room for improvement (fast travel, anyone?), it gives us a new hero, a new setting, and familiar gameplay without the pain of the current-day segments. Give Liberation HD a shot, just don’t come in expecting it to be on the level of Assassin’s Creed IV.
Available on Xbox 360 (reviewed), Playstation 3
Dev: Ubisoft Sofia
Full disclosure: Review code provided by the publisher.